Tuesday, January 13, 2009

FOI disclosures censored to law journalists as MacAskill’s legal complaints commission prefers secrecy to public accountability

SLCC squareIn a picture of what is fast becoming a gauge of accountability for Scottish legal issues under the current SNP controlled Scottish Government, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's unaccountable Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has decided it is better to operate under complete secrecy rather than be the transparent independent organisation it claims to be.

Material taken from an FOI release from MacAskill's legal complaints quango, the SLCC, which is populated by ex Police Chiefs, lawyers, members of the Law Society of Scotland, & ex public service ministerial appointees, show the SLCC to be just as secretive as the Law Society of Scotland are when it comes to operational matters, even after receiving multi million pound gifts of taxpayers money from the Justice Secretary.

Financial accountability at the Legal Complaints Commission – Keep everything secret, just like the Law Society of Scotland.

Audit & Finance Committee montage

Worse is to come in that while MacAskill's ministerial creation, the SLCC, will release information to the legal profession itself, and selected individuals, it now appears the SLCC have been found out to be apparently operating secret rules of information discrimination which are applied to those deemed too dangerous to the issue of handling legal regulation & complaints against Scottish solicitors, ensuring certain individuals do not receive compromising material.

One of those individuals on the SLCC's exclusion list, appears to be me, where as you can see from the following FOI release, papers which were released to others, were completely censored in response to my own FOI request, which has now been passed to the FOI Commissioner, Kevin Dunion for investigation.

Legal complaints quango releases rules discussion to some friends in the legal world :

SLCC 7&8th April Meeting  Original Page 1SLCC 7&8th April Meeting  Original Page 2SLCC 7&8th April Meeting  Original Page 3SLCC 7&8th April Meeting  Original Page 4SLCC 7&8th April Meeting  Original Page 5SLCC 7&8th April Meeting  Original Page 6

… and the censored versions released to enquiring law journalists:

SLCC 7&8th April Meeting Blanked out Page 1SLCC 7&8th April Meeting Blanked out Page 2SLCC 7&8th April Meeting Blanked out Page 3SLCC 7&8th April Meeting Blanked out Page 4SLCC 7&8th April Meeting Blanked out Page 5SLCC 7&8th April Meeting Blanked out Page 6

So as you can see its full steam backwards for MacAskill’s Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, as censorship seems to be the preferred order of the day, supported by elements of the Scottish Government’s Justice Department who themselves see the information I requested, as far too damaging to release to the public.

A source at the Justice Department earlier this week condemned the SLCC’s attempts to maintain public secrecy over it’s less than perfect operations : “I don’t think anyone out there would believe the SLCC is an honest organisation when it stoops to this kind of level – especially when they have had so much of the taxpayer’s money to begin with”.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine, SLCC Chairman. I asked Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s Chairman for an explanation as to why FOIs were censored when the information had already been released to others, but so far, no ‘official’ statement has been given on why the SLCC felt secrecy should be maintained, at a significant use of black ink to conceal the workings of the quango from the general public, who have paid some £2 million pounds plus into the commission on the Justice Secretary’s say so

It seems therefore, the SLCC has been forced to resort to secrecy, due to the many ongoing scandals surrounding the beleaguered lawyers complaints quango, scandals which have seen the likes of stories reporting that the quango’s members have concentrated more on pensions benefits & insurance protection than actual case handling.

You can read two of my recent ‘hot topic’ articles on the going’s on at the SLCC here :

Complaints Commission 'unfit for purpose' as secret meetings with insurers & pensions take focus over consumer protection against crooked lawyers

MacAskill silent on taxpayers £2million 'write off' to lawyers quango as Complaints boss reveals Law Society defaulted on levies

A legal insider reported to me that my recent reports on the faulty operation of the SLCC, “it was felt internally PC had caused considerable damage to the organisation's public credibility to the point where attempts must be made to prevent this kind of news from reaching the public in the future”.

Fine then, and as that appears to amount to an attempt of censorship, I decided to test it out and ask some difficult questions of the Scottish Government today on another article I am writing about, concerning Mr MacAskill’s recent announced ‘consultation” on legal services in Scotland.

MacAskill tight lippedJustice Minister concerned over quango revelations ? : I was given what appears to be a hostile rebuke by the Scottish Government’s Press Officials today, who now refuse to talk to me over apparent concerns I am revealing highly sensitive issues which appear to show a concerted attempt by the present Scottish Government to undermine independent regulation of the Scottish legal services market.

Also up for criticism seems to be my damaging portrayal of last week’s announcement by Mr MacAskill of the Legal Profession Bill consultation, which, rather than actually widening ordinary Scots access to justice, will leave the legal services market as restricted and monopolised by the Law Society of Scotland as before, rather than allowing Scots to chose their own legal representatives.

I shared the Scottish Government’s Press comments to me today with a friend who is an Editor of one of Scotland’s national newspapers, his comments were : “Well Peter what do you expect ? You are doing a lot of good reporting on complicated legal issues and they will have to try and shut you up. At least you can’t be bought off with threats of ‘pulling the ads’ or a threatening telephone call from the Law Society !”.

Thanks for the vote of confidence .. I hope some of the media will take up the issues and continue to expose the lack of justice when it comes to dealing with those who supposedly represent justice !

You can read through some of the censored FOI releases, and compare them with some of the uncensored material (in Acrobat .pdf format) from Mr MacAskill’s less than open Scottish Legal Complaints Commission here :

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jane Ivine & Kenny MacAskill likes to use the black ink ?
Must be something to hide.

Well done Peter !!!

Anonymous said...

I think its safe to say you are hurting them with your stuff Mr C and I don't thin k anyone could support the kind of censorship you are writing about today.

Good luck ..

Anonymous said...

An interesting story as usual Peter and I for one do not support censored FOI disclosures.

Who exactly did you speak to at the Government as a Press Official and why the "rebuke" ?

Anonymous said...

I have a solution to all this - put you in charge of the slcc and then we can all be assured lawyers will be strung up by the balls when caught!
Good show keep it up mate!

Anonymous said...

What did MacAskill's lacky say ? Was it
something like "Fuck off and die" or "We will send a hitter to blow your ass off" ?

Anonymous said...

“I don’t think anyone out there would believe the SLCC is an honest organisation when it stoops to this kind of level – especially when they have had so much of the taxpayer’s money to begin with”.

OBVIOUSLY !!!!

Anonymous said...

seems pretty unfair to say the least although i suspect theres a lot to hide,right?

Anonymous said...

It is quite disgraceful that such blatant censorship should take place and those 'public servants' responsible be allowed to remain in post.

High time also that newspaper editors called the Law Society's bluff, list any advertisers who might be sufficiently stupid to do its bidding, and remembered what their purpose is - with their readers right to know all the facts!

No wonder newspapers are seeing dwindling circulation figures - most people go to the internet and sites such as this for truthful and comprehensive reporting.

Anonymous said...

What on earth could be going on in their finance meeting ?
Was someone nailed to the table while the others danced round goats and got whipped ?
The whole thing stinks and Dunion should come down on them like a ton of bricks.

Anonymous said...

Well there's little doubt they have broken the law.I don't think you can release FOIs to some then censor the same material to others - that's blatant discrimination to put it mildly.

Anonymous said...

Yes I believe as others say there has to be some dishonesty going on at that quango for all those papers to be blacked out.

and that 2 million should be paid back.What are they doing with it anyway? Private bank accounts in Lichtenstein ?

// said...

Well lets face it Peter if you were writing bum kissing stories for the SNP or MacAskill you would have been treated to top billing.
Anyway its not an SNP thing its a MacAskill thing.Remember not all of us in the SNP think the sun shines out of a lawyers backside or even Macaskill's backside for that.We remember very well what he all did (and the unreported stuff) during his leadership challenge (laugh) so remember the party isn't a den of crooked lawyers (even if there are some hanging around).

Anonymous said...

The papers are all a lie anyway mr. cherbi. Evey piece of those papers I couldn't have responded too because it didn't exist and they have even fooled you into believeing their lies. I will however take the remark and improve my response because I don't care what they say about my efforts. I couldn't have responded in a statue of limitation period because the papers didn't exist. Now you will start to understand the characted of these people and how they know they weren't a matter of file back then and yet they lie and critisize me for trying to work with corruption...carrie

Anonymous said...

Good report Peter,I think you deserve a full investigation into this and the cuffs slapped on anyone who blacked over the minutes of the meetings.

Anonymous said...

I am also going to make a formail complaint to the courts outlining the issues I have just wrote you on court outlined forms. I plan on also submitting my complaint on their forms too but ataching everything else. I know my work isn't as near as good as your posting. I couldn't even compare my work to yours but please keep in mind that I am dealing with fraud, liars, deception and all kinds of other things. I have been denied my entire life to access the kind of education it takes to live up to your standard and others. I do the best I can and try as hard as possible to please the courts. I don't lie or try to cover things up. I know I have to work on the level of professional and quality of my work. I do the best I can having to work on public computers with timers and the violation of my email by other. It is a constant problem. thank you for your inquiries into things. carrie.

Anonymous said...

Very newsworthy story Mr Cherbi.Its a pity the hootsmon wasnt muzzled by the Law Society these days or you might have got a story !
All they can manage is a damp attempt to make us feel sorry for thieving lying scum lawyers getting fired-
http://business.scotsman.com/legalissues/Scottish-lawyers-fear-for-their.4854214.jp

Anonymous said...

haha !! no shortage of black ink for SNP Scotland !!

Anonymous said...

All that censored stuff wont do the slcc any good.Even a child realises when you hide the truth or tell a lie that person is a bit of a crook to say the least so what we have here are people who just are not fit to be in public office if they have to hide what they are doing from the public

Anonymous said...

Given the fact you are a bit of a well known writer on legal matters Peter i wouldn't be surprised if MacAskill was told of your foi to the slcc and knew you would be getting the censored material?

Read this for something which may be relevant to your own experience : http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2008/12/ministers_approve_foi_answers.html

Further down the page in the comments section is something I found very interesting :
"I can't say what the current position is (having been sacked for trying to protect FOI by leaking to the BBC 18 months ago - or at least that's how my central government department employers (obviously not Home Office!) chose to see my actions), but the Home Office were always seen as a bit of a joke for needing Ministerial agreement to every FOI response and (in the early days), wanting MoJ (DCA as was) to approve every single response, no matter how mundane. Don't tar all Civil Servants or departments with the Home Office brush!"

Could the same be happening with the Scottish 'Government' and the slcc ?

Anonymous said...

I don't always agree with what you write about lawyers but doing this over foi is just bloody minded on the slcc's part and not fair play which I do believe everyone is entitled to.Tear them to shreds and hats off to your persistence/determination on law matters !

Anonymous said...

I have read some of those files from your download folder and they mostly appear to be blacked out so I did some checking at the slcc's website and found only one set of meetings posted for 27 October 2008.
Now even though you seem to have many more meeting papers albeit the censored variety the question must be asked why are the SLCC keeping this information secret from the public and not posting even the ones which don't seem to be censored on their own website ?

I think you have the makings of a very good story here which should end up in the newspapers or on television.

Anonymous said...

Brave and persistent I'd say describes you very well Peter.I hope there are more like you in Scotland who will give the rest of us ideas to question our own Government's scandals.

You are admired :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant story Peter and it only goes to show the hostility these crooks in the legal world continually feel for you just because you expose them for what they really are - CROOKS

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !

Anonymous said...

Well what an interesting turn of events Mr Cherbi.Its almost as if this slcc and MacAskill want to fail just to vindicate your stance,which incidentally I think is definitely vindicated !

Regardless however of the issues I don't think anyone should accept that material disclosed to some is withheld from them so you are definitely doing the right thing in reporting it and informing the rest of us of what occurred.

Remember to keep us posted on developments which I'm sure you will do anyway as the keen reporter you are !

Anonymous said...

I like the way you have laid out the story Peter and nice touch with this folder link.How did you do that ?
I don't think anyone would accept the way the slcc is treating people which is extremely offensive considering they are censoring stuff only to some.
Keep up your campaign and fight them !

Anonymous said...

outrageous to say the least and I hope the FOI Commissioner nails them to the wall on this and anything else they have been up to

Anonymous said...

Hmm yes Peter I agree this is no way to handle freedom of information.
I think someone seriously has to answer for this mess which is obviously more than a mess because it stinks to high heaven the lot !

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter
I don't think I've ever seen something happen like this before with FOI.
Make sure you tell the Scottish Information Commissioner about what happened and get a full investigation.
You can contact them by their website here:
http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/

Anonymous said...

Some good comments here and food for thought for Mr Dunion and Jane Irvine I hope.

Keep up the watchfulness Peter - its clear this bunch need some oversight themselves !

Anonymous said...

I think this slcc quango are just being nasty after all you have shown them to be idiots at best and well dare I say a lot worse !

Anonymous said...

I've been digging around the web since I read this last night and came up with the following story on bbc news which is talking about England but I think the same has probably happened to your foi disclosure because of who you are and what you are writing about:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7774553.stm

Home Office reveals FOI policies
An email sent by mistake from the Home Office to the BBC has revealed that freedom of information requests are often first reviewed by ministers.

The document also shows how such requests are first assessed for their controversy level.

A final decision is then made on whether or not to disclose information.

The Information Commissioner's Office says it intends to remind the Home Office of its obligation to comply with Freedom of Information legislation.

The document sent to the BBC separates requests into those that have to be seen by a minister before information is released, and those that do not.

It lists Freedom of Information requests made in September and makes clear whether the request has come from the media.

This is despite the Freedom of Information Act stating that applicant's identities should not affect decisions.

Next to one of the of the applications listed is confirmation that the Labour Party is happy for information regarding the number of work permits it has issued to be disclosed.

Another, whose controversy level was assessed as medium, asked for the cost of bonuses made to the executive team of the Criminal Records' Bureau to be made public.

In that case, only a partial disclosure was recommended.

The Home Office says the procedures revealed by the email keep ministers properly informed about what is being made public, and that the identities of applicants never affect FOI decisions.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could find a lawyer that would help me. I am completely blocked here. I don't want them to represent me because I don't feel like they have acted on my behalf but against me. I may have faults Mr. Cherbi but I am human and have been through so many things. I couldn't never get the help. I was beaten and thrown in jail at 18 when I went ot try and look into my mother estate. They beat me in the rubber room as they called it. they drummed up false charges against me to off set and to cover up beating me. it was a use of intimidation. I always got intimidated by the courts and was afraid for my life. they have already gotten the wrongful death money and if they could I would never get a penny of it. go read the new John Grisham book, "The Appeal" and you will leanr more but I have never seen a dime of it...
carrie

Anonymous said...

no doubt about it Peter they certainly dont want you revealing their scandals !

Anonymous said...

okay enough with the comments get an investigation going into this quango and why it is hiding behind the black ink!

Anonymous said...

So as we see this quango is just as bad as all the banks in handling money and accounting for it and the Scottish Govt are busy making sure no one gets to find out about it.I call that crooked !

Anonymous said...

Secrecy backed by the Government I think !

Anonymous said...

I plan on filing one of these in san diego about the different sets of divorce documents I have gotten, one dated 1989 and 1992. the one from 1992 ends up missing and being replace with the one from 1989. the 1989 new an improved version of fraud. I orignally called at greg moores place when I stayed there. I had the number of the case and when I ended up at rachaels homeless shelter I walked over to the court and got a copy. it had a littel green card in that file and it was about 6 pages. that disappeared and when I got to vegas and need a copy this is when the new and improved fraud divorce showed up but then it only consisted of about 12 pages and not the 20 and over it is now. you probably have saved my life mr. cherbi and I am so grateful too you...carrie. here is the form I am filing too them

Anonymous said...

Its cheering to know that secrecy usually goes hand in hand with corruption and since this is about lawyers there will be plenty of that!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the slcc expected you wouldn't get hold of the other stuff but being as good as you are that was obviously a false hope!

Brilliant story and I hope you get a few heads for this mess !

Anonymous said...

I've read this story a couple of times and cannot believe how stupid this organisation is.
If they had given you the papers you wanted there would hardly have been a story however doing what they have done has given you a gift and proves your point those who criticize lawyers are discriminated against all the way up to Government.
Go for it Peter!Make them accountable!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting they feel you couldn't see the rules under which they are supposed to be operating ?
Certainly something fishy going on here and the censor treatment to their Finance meeting just has to be wrong if they got so much taxpayers money as you say !

Anonymous said...

Not too happy about having to fork out for this lot to keep the rest of us in the dark on how they are spending our money.

Anonymous said...

outrageous to say the least and I look forward to see what Kevin Dunion does about it although since this is plainly prejudice against you shouldn't there be some kind of Police investigation too ?

Anonymous said...

they are afraid ofyou which is why you should be on the slcc !

Anonymous said...

Oh dear it looks like the SNP should change their name to Secrets National Party allowing (or passing) this kind of foi onto the media.
Something more to hide among many other skeletons,Messrs MacAskill,Salmond et all ?

Anonymous said...

someone who speaks his mind about the law and actually speaks some sense - no wonder you have them running for the black ink!

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for all your comments & messages on this article.

I would agree there is definitely a 'whiff of dishonesty' associated with secrecy of the nature we are talking about here .. particularly when these same documents have been released to others, and I understand people at the Law Society of Scotland, without the same level of censorship.

Perhaps Mr MacAskill has instituted a new 'arc of secrecy' for anything to do with his colleagues in the legal profession, something I'm sure Scotland can well do without.

I will be interested to see how the Information Commissioner handles the investigation when it is time for him to look into matters ...

Anonymous said...

MacAskill's "arc of secrecy" - good one !
I suspect there are an "arc of fat brown envelopes" chasing around too !

Anonymous said...

Whats up with this bunch then that they dont want the rest of us to find out ?

Money laundering or something like that ?

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading the next instalment on this story and I agree with everyone else something definitely crooked is going on here with this quango.

Anonymous said...

Its absurd they actually did this to you knowing who you are and what you would make of it.
I hope the FOI Commissioner Mr Dunion does his job or can we expect political interference in his investigation into this too ?

Anonymous said...

To be honest Peter I have heard the SNP are fiddling with more foi's than the previous Scottish Executive so what you have highlighted is no surprise but it is a big surprise to see it in public!
Keep up the good work !